Spring fever: Prolonged warm spell will thaw Midwest, Plains

Finally, Some Lasting Warmth!
Finally, Some Lasting Warmth!


By Weather.com, Jon Erdman

You're sick of winter, aren't you?

It's okay to admit it. You're not alone. (Apologies to those in Florida, Hawaii, the Desert Southwest, ski resort owners or students hoping for more snow days. This meteorological counseling session isn't for you.)

(MORE: 5 Reasons Why March Weather Frustrates You)

Look, we love the meteorology of winter storms and arctic cold outbreaks. It's part of our DNA at The Weather Channel and weather.com.

(MORE: Winter Storm CentralWinter Expert, Tom Niziol)

However, meteorologists (and yours truly, in particular) love the phrase "pattern change."

After Winter Storm Thor dumped over 20 inches of snow in some areas, stranding hundreds of travelers, and record-shattering March cold followed, I think it's safe to say we could all use a pattern change.

Let's first recap the persistent pattern we've been stuck in recently.

A Winter Rut

For the second winter in a row, the jet stream tended to migrate northward over the eastern Pacific Ocean, then plunge sharply southward into the central and eastern United States. This was particularly the case from late January through February.

As a result, several cities in the Midwest and East chalked up one of their coldest, if not the coldest Februaries on record. Several arctic outbreaks delivered the coldest air so late in the season in February and in early March.

At the same time, parts of the West wondered where winter had gone, tallying their record warmest February and, in some cases, winter season (December-February).

(FEBRUARY RECORDS: ColdWarm)

If that wasn't enough, a roughly monthlong siege of snow buried parts of New England, setting new monthly snowfall records from Maine to Massachusetts.

(MORE: New England's Record-Breaking SnowThis Winter's Snow in 10-Second GIFs)

We've had 12 named winter storms in just over six weeks since from January 21 through March 5.

Had enough? Here's some good news for shivering souls.


Do I Hear 50 Degrees?

You're going to have to be a little patient.

After Winter Storm Thor , a record early-March cold snapwith subzero cold as far south as the Ohio Valley settles in to end the week.

Hang in there.

Later next week, the jet stream pattern, at least temporarily, makes a subtle but important shift, with a southward dip in the jet, known as an upper-level trough, near or just off the West Coast.

Over the nation's midsection, instead of plunging southward out of northern Canada, the jet stream flattens or even bulges northward toward Canada.

While the incredible snowcover in parts of New England and a lingering southward dip in the jet stream may mitigate any significant warming – sorry, folks ... baby steps, here – a pronounced warmup is likely in the northern/central Plains and Upper Midwest next week.

The cold first eases in the nation's midsection heading into this weekend.

Highs in the 50s will surge northward into parts of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, the western Dakotas and Montana. By early next week, 60s may reach as far north as Billings, Montana and Des Moines, Iowa. Yes, even that elusive 70-degree mark isn't out of the question in parts of the central Plains.

In the Great Lakes, 40s should become more common. A few locations in the Upper Midwest (Twin Cities, Chicago, perhaps even Green Bay) may even flirt with the 50-degree mark next week.

(MAPS: 10-Day Forecast Highs/Lows)

While not as far above average as the Plains, some of this warmer air will extend into the Ohio Valley and Appalachians, as well. While easing of the cold is good news, there, steady melting of the snowpack laid down by Winter Storm Thor may worsen existing, or trigger new river flooding.

(INTERACTIVE MAP: Current Flood Alerts)

For the winter-weary Northeast, our longer-range guidance is suggesting highs in the 40s can be expected, at times, even in New England next week. A few 50s for highs can be expected, as well, farther south including Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., at times.

Of course, these are extended temperature forecasts, subject to uncertainty this far out. Previous forecasts of the demise of the stubborn winter pattern have, well, met their demise.

Also, the sun's energy first needs to melt any existing snowpack, before any appreciable warmup kicks in.

That said, we're seeing enough of a signal in the general pattern to indicate the relentless siege of cold is going to back off for some.

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